SWINDON Wildcats players have thrown their support behind the club's management as they target a second trophy of the season to ease their NIHL play-off disappointment.

The Cats saw their hopes of reaching the South play-off final effectively ended on Sunday afternoon when they were sanctioned by the authorities having named youngster Joshua Francis Kelly on their match roster for last Saturday's semi-final first leg against Peterborough Phantoms.

Kelly remained on the bench throughout the match and did not take to the ice but NIHL rules state players must have played 25 per cent of league games to be eligible to skate in the play-offs, with Kelly having played just twice previously.

The NIHL management subsequently overturned the 4-2 first-leg win, awarding Peterborough a 5-0 success, rendering Cats 6-4 win in Peterborough in the return on Sunday night not enough to secure their progress.

The Wildcats lodged an appeal on Monday but it was promptly dismissed by the league to officially confirm the end of their play-off campaign.

A statement released on social media by forward Max Birbraer underlined the roster's support of owner Steve Nell and player-coach Aaron Nell in the wake of the ruling, with the Cats still having the chance to add to their Autumn Cup win earlier this month when they face Sheffield Steeldogs in a two-legged NIHL Cup final next month.

“We would like to take this opportunity to offer some reflection on the events of the past weekend,” read the statement.

“Each and every player would like to put on record their full support and gratitude for everything they have done for us as players this season and moving forward.

“The decision taken by the league has hurt everyone at the club, but as players we remain focussed on bringing a final trophy to Swindon to reward the professional manner in which we have been treated by everyone within the organisation.''

The statement added: "In regard to the punishment issued by the league, firstly we want to wish Peterborough the very best of luck for the rest of their play-off campaign.

"From a players' stance we would question why the league would have a ruling in place that sees an administrative error, relating to the wrongful inclusion of a young British prospect, culminate in players and spectators of both sides being affected.

"Going forward, it cannot be right that a play-off series can be ruined in such a way that nobody involved wins.

"A financial penalty would allow the league to incorporate a punishment, but would also allow the players to still determine the result.

"More importantly however, it would give opportunity for investment from the league back into the product.''

The players' statement also outlined the determination of the Cats to add further silverware to their fine season to date.

It added: "Lastly, we would like to remind everyone that we stand together with everyone at the club in apologising for the mistake, and express that at no point has blame been placed on the player in question.

"We are proud of the role we have played in encouraging development opportunities to younger prospects this season, and all those players will remain a crucial part of our team

“This team was brought together with the expectation to win trophies. We would like to ensure our fans that we are now even more focussed to give you the effort that you are proud of in the National (cup) final.”

Swindon will now face Sheffield Steeldogs over two legs for their National Cup final, starting with an away trip on Wednesday, April 11, and a home fixture on Sunday, April 15.